By Candace Birkelbach

Killeen Daily Herald

Childhood obesity has become a national epidemic in America. Recent statistics have shown that nearly one-fourth of children in the United States are obese, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

The Killeen Independent School District is taking measures to improve its nutrition and physical education policies, some of which have been mandated by the state.

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs issued a news release Tuesday that announced the new Texas Fitness Now grant program, which is aimed at middle school students attending schools where enrollment is at least 75 percent economically disadvantaged.

Combs is offering $20 million in grants over the next two years to support physical education, nutrition and fitness programs as crisis money.

KISD teachers will be completing a training session Aug. 23 in order to implement a new physical education program for middle schools called Spark Play and Recreation for Kids.

"We are trying to have a program to give teachers more tools and additional activities to use within the physical education program that will help motivate kids to be more physically fit," said Steve Gilliam, content and engagement specialist for KISD.

The district has been modifying traditional sports and has instituted activities such as Frisbee golf and dance for non-dancers.

"We're not trying to reinvent the wheel, just take what kids are already doing and put it in a format that will make them want to do it in the future when a coach is not around," Gilliam said.

The state also has intervened in the fight against childhood obesity and created several mandates for school systems to follow.

Senate Bill 530 – signed into law on June 15 – requires physical fitness testing for all students in grades 3 through 12. The test will analyze students' aerobic capacity, body fat composition, flexibility and muscle strength, Gilliam said.

Students with medical notes or disabilities will not have to participate in the exam. The results of the testing will be reported to the state to see if there is a correlation between academic success and physical fitness, Gilliam added.

The current district physical education requirements are 135 minutes a week for elementary students, three semesters out of three years at middle school and 1.5 credits for high school students. Athletics, band and cheerleading can be substituted for physical education at the high schools.

The district also altered its nutrition program by doing away with deep-fried foods and soda machines.

Contact Candace Birkelbach at or call (254) 501-7553

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